A faith that does justice
Today we offer our thoughts, words, and deeds to the Lord.
Jenny Hodge reflects on her three years as a student at Manchester and the community she found at the chaplaincy.
I became part of the community at Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy back in 2013. I was 18, had left home for the first time, was about to start a degree in speech and language therapy and was quite dubious about what university life would bring for me. Now, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the chaplaincy. It became so much more than a place to eat after mass on Sunday – it became a second home.
When I think about my time at the chaplaincy, I think about three things: Community, Action and Spirituality.
The Community at the chaplaincy is welcoming and inclusive. I went to mass in the beautiful Holy Name Church on my first day in Manchester and was greeted at the end by a friendly student who invited me to the chaplaincy for pizza. This student grew to become one of my best friends. Soon, I developed a fantastic group of friends, from various countries and backgrounds. It’s been wonderful to have friends with the same beliefs and values who are always there whenever you need them. If ever I feel down, I know I can walk into the chaplaincy and there’s a 95% chance that someone will be in there (studying, drinking tea, eating biscuits) and be willing to listen and give me a hug!
A passion for social justice
Social Action became a huge part of my university life. In my first week I joined the chaplaincy SVP group. Having grown up in a church where the SVP consisted of approximately five people all over the age of 70, I was surprised to see how vibrant the chaplaincy SVP group was. I got involved in ‘soup runs’ for homeless people on the streets of Manchester, cooked for ‘intergenerational dinners’ for students and local residents from an elderly people’s home, helped start up a breakfast club at a local primary school in a deprived area of Manchester… and much more. This experience has really given me a passion for social justice and is something I’d like to continue with after I graduate. I loved the SVP as it really brought together Faith and Action – with a Bible reading and words of wisdom from a member of the Jesuit team at every SVP meeting.
Ways of praying that work for us
Spirituality took on a new level in my life as a result of chaplaincy events. Before arriving at university, I don’t think I’d ever heard of the Jesuits, let alone Ignatian spirituality. I’ve definitely learnt a lot about both since then. The team at the chaplaincy are always willing to talk about ways of praying that work for us. I have been fortunate enough to go on several chaplaincy retreats to the beautiful St Joseph’s Centre by the seaside in Freshfield. These retreats have included laughing, games and also periods of silence and the chance to meet with a spiritual guide. I’m generally quite a quiet person anyway but I really appreciated being given some tips to aid my prayer during these silences (e.g. imaginative prayer, the examen).
I have also participated twice in the invaluable ‘week of guided prayer’ based at the chaplaincy. This gave me the opportunity to meet with a spiritual guide for 20 minutes each day and discuss (openly and without any fear of judgement) my prayer. Both these occasions caused some surprises for me. For example, last my guide gave me some artwork and some questions to consider when looking at this. As a person who doesn’t usually ‘get’ art, I was a bit dubious, but actually got so much out of that exercise and have done a similar exercise since.
An unbelievably wonderful community
Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy has given me an unbelievably wonderful community, allowed me put my faith into fighting for social justice and also has introduced me to some beautiful ways of praying, which in turn has improved my relationship with God. I will miss the chaplaincy greatly when I move away soon, but I know I will never forget the experiences I have had here and the people I have met.
Try this Imaginative contemplation exercise from Pray as you go written by Steve Hoyland. Steve Hoyland runs weeks' of guided prayer at Manchester Chaplaincy and other university chaplaincies up and down the country.
Read more on the Jesuits in Britain website about weeks' of guided prayer run at the Manchester chaplaincy. Read more >>